Karma — Paying it forward or Paying back

Karen Tsui
3 min readJul 14, 2022


Close up of sprawling tentacles-like green plant with caption: Karma Paying Forward or Paying Back

I was telling a friend that some years back, I joined a Japanese friend on hikes she helped organise for the Japanese community in Hong Kong. The weekend hikes created a home away from home for people who was working in Hong Kong, sometimes alone. Every weekend over a hike and a meal shared, it was relaxing time to chit chat and connect in their mother tongue.

This friend I was talking to happens to also be an organiser of hikes free for people to join — in turn facilitating more city dwellers to see the natural side of Hong Kong, and cross paths with people from different walks.

All organisers are volunteers.

While at times it could be a bit of admin work, yet they continue to do what they do, with a smile.

The future is born out of what we do in the present.

- Helen Barton of Insight Teachings

Another way

A decade ago, I asked my teacher if there was another way than what I was doing then. I told him that I was filling up these small bubbles in tiny booklets (kind of like the lotto or standardised exam bubbles) after each recitation of a prayer. It is a practice and it works for many. Yet for me I found it hard to wrap my head around it when I felt I was reciting sounds (not even words because they were of a foreign language) and I couldn’t see how it benefits, nor does good.

My teacher responded to my question, “Yes of course there is another way. To pay it forward.”

Paying it forward

I’ve realised that back then I operated from needing to pay back or balance any karma outstanding. When really, karma is not good or bad. Karma is input — output. What you reap is what you you’ve sown. What will ripen will show up as and when it is time -be it “good” or “bad” -all experiences gives us an opportunity to come to a different understanding.

As my teacher (Helen) once mentioned — The future is born out of what we do in the present. (paraphrasing).

To pay forward isn’t out there doing charitable work I reckon, but to be clear on the intent of where we are coming from in our actions every moment of every day. And the crux of it lies in being aware of our intent, actions, thoughts and heart.

Thank you to those who have kindly volunteered to facilitate learning and enriching experiences.

Where My Heart Leads — Food For Thought

  • It feels different doesn’t it when it comes from the heart vs Paying back.
  • Do you realise the intent behind the phrase — “Karma will catch up on that person”? And when you do, would you still be using it?

You may also be interested in

  • Opening to the Labyrinth | Labyrinths are one path. Just follow the path and you’ll get there.
  • Mystery Triangles | You’d be surprised to find TOTO toilets in wooden shacks. TOTO toilets are swanky Japanese toilets complete with customisable bidet functions and most appreciated of all — the perennially warm seat. Waarmnesss… The wooden shacks ain’t just any ordinary wooden shacks either. They were out in the boonies in Japan at a Vipassana meditation camp.

Originally published at https://www.wheremyheartleads.com on July 14, 2022.



Karen Tsui

Writer + Host: WheremyHeartLeads.com/ Filmaholic/ Orchestrii Orchestrator-in-Chief / Design-lover /World explorer. Written for Zolima City Mag, Culture Trip.